AN: Thank yous and big, squanchy hugs to all my friends. I've missed you too...
Hermione woke the next morning stiff and sore and aching in a dozen places. She stretched carefully, taking inventory of all the offended muscles. Twisting around, she found herself alone and closed her eyes, recalling the gentle kiss on her cheek and the sound of a closing door just before she'd drifted away.
She looked at the clock and saw it was just half-passed six in the morning and wondered if he was awake yet. What was he thinking? What must he think of her? She'd been wild last night. Utterly out of control. She'd lost track of how many ways, how many positions. It had all seemed amazing at the time, now it seemed… She wrinkled her nose, remembering some of the demands she'd made. Oh, lord. How was she supposed to act natural around him when she'd begged him wank on her tits?
She sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly, shaking her head. It was going to take a monumental effort for the term 'awkward' to surpass this.
Pushing the sheet off her, she got up to dig through her drawers for a healing potion. After that, she threw on her dressing gown, grabbed her towel, and hurried into the shower.
By the time she was dressed, she could already smell Molly and Ginny cooking breakfast. Pulling her hair up into a damp knot on the back of her head, she settled her shoulders, lifted her chin, and pulled open her door.
She headed down to the kitchen to see if there was anything she could do to help.
"Hey, Hermione," Harry said from where he sat at the table. "You look good. I was expecting you to look a lot worse." He poured her a mug of tea and pushed it across the table to her.
"Why?" she asked, trying to mask her defensiveness with nonchalance.
"Because Severus looked pretty awful this morning." He looked over at Ginny whisking a bowl of eggs. "Did George ever admit to what he slipped into the food?"
"Not a bit of it," Ginny said. "He and Angelina left early. Good thing too, Professor Snape was on the hunt for them when he came down." She looked over at Hermione. "I have to agree, you do look a good bit better than he did. You look rested. He looked like walking death. Hadn't even shaved. Never thought I'd ever see him looking that bad."
Hermione winced. "Where is he now?"
"Oh, he's gone too. Said something about not having the stomach for any more—how did he say it?"
Harry set his mug down and recited, "'Cretinous ideas of fun and games.'" He shook his head. "I'm glad George is happy, but I really wish he hadn't picked this weekend to start acting like an arse again. From the look in his eye, I suspect we've seen the last of Severus at our get-togethers."
Hermione couldn't think of a proper response to that. She just bit her lip and looked around for something to occupy her. She didn't want to think about how badly her stomach now hurt.
Hermione was rewriting Sorbel's robbery report when the paper airplane landed on her desk and unfolded itself. She picked it up and read it before sighing and tossing it down. "I've not time for this," she muttered pushing her chair away from her desk.
"What's wrong," asked Harry , catching her growl as he was passing.
"It says I've got a visitor in reception," she said with a sigh, "but they didn't bother telling me who it was or what it was about."
"I hate when they do that to me," Harry said. "It's usually some history buff wanting to ask me questions about Dumbledore."
"Yeah, me too."
"But it could also be someone with a tip," he added.
She sighed. "I thought of that as well."
She left the office and down the lift, heading toward the reception desk. Bittles was on duty. "You said I had a visitor?"
He looked up at her, and then jutted his chin toward the fountain before looking back down at the old copy of Witch Weekly he was perusing.
Hermione turned around with a frown, there were several people in the Atrium, but when her eyes settled on one man in particular, she swore under her breath.
Snape nodded to her from where he was standing next to the fountain, drawn up to his full height and looking every bit as uncomfortable as she now was. It had been four days she'd seen him last, sweating and heaving on top of her. She was of two minds about the incident, and those two minds seemed to be guided by the time of day. In the mornings, she was still horribly embarrassed. At night she was… not.
"Can you tell Harry that I'm done for the day?" she said over her shoulder.
"Will do," Bittles muttered.
She crammed her hands into her pockets and walked over toward the fountain.
"Hello," she said as she drew close. "What brings you here?"
He glanced around them before answering in a quiet voice. "Forgive me for bothering you at work. I wanted to catch you before you'd left for the day. We have a matter to clear up, and further delay will cause me too much anxiety to be borne," he said, looking at her intently.
"Do we?" she asked, her mind producing nothing more than a high-pitched whine of panic.
He nodded sharply, his dark eyes scanning the area around them. "I've never done anything like that before, and I find myself at a total loss. I'm so sorry. I—"
She blanched and leaned closer, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Look, if you're talking about wanking on my tits, let's just chalk it up to the drugged food and not bring it up again, shall we? It was my bloody idea. You can't be more embarrassed than I am."
He grimaced, and she hadn't known it was possible for him to look even more uncomfortable. "I'm not talking about… that." He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "There was little time for forethought or rational discourse during our… encounter. I would very much like to know if you had taken any precautions beforehand. Because, unfortunately, I must tell you that I did not."
It took several heartbeats before she understood what he was getting at. When she did, she felt her brain seize. "Oh, Jesus Christ!" she blurted.
He winced and darted a look around as he took her elbow and guided her away from the fountain. "I take it that's a 'no'," he said as he led her toward the Floos. "I hope you were done for the day," he said before he called out, "The Leaky Cauldron!"
Hermione stumbled into the taproom of the Leaky, grateful for Snape's grip on her arm. He nodded to Hannah Abbot behind the bar and kept them moving up the stairs and into one of the private meeting rooms. There was a comfortable sofa, several cushioned chairs, a snooker table, a dartboard, and a small empty bar. Once the door was closed behind them, he let go of her arm and sighed, running a shaking hand down his face.
"Why didn't I even think of that?" she moaned into the ensuing silence.
"Because we weren't capable of thinking," he replied, as he dug into the pocket of his outer robe, "or restraint. Hence the wanking on your breasts."
"No, not then, I meant, why didn't it occur to me afterwards? It never crossed my mind!"
"I'm sure it was because by that point, you were desperate not to think about it."
She wrinkled her nose. "True," she mumbled. When he handed her a small potion and an empty flask, she added, "What's this?"
He folded his arms across his chest. "It's a pregnancy test. You need a urine sample in the one, and then you add the other."
She held up the bottle and looked through it. "Isn't there a charm?"
He scowled and gestured toward a door in the back of the sitting room. "Yes, but we'd have to wait two or three more weeks, and I'm sure I'll have an ulcer by then. That's the lav. Go."
She blinked at him. "What, now?"
"Did you want to drag this out?" he snapped. He raised a hand and gestured beyond the seating. "We could make a night of it. Get in a few games of snooker and share a few laughs first if you'd prefer." Her eyebrows rose, and she felt herself smile idiotically just as his brows snapped down. "Yes, now," he spat.
She frowned at him and headed to the bathroom. Closing and locking the door behind her, she heard his footsteps stomping across the floor. She put up a Silencing Charm while staring at the empty flask and shaking her head. This was surreal. Just what the hell was she going to do if she was pregnant? With Snape's child, no less. Good lord, it would be scandalous. Well, for him, anyway. Hogwarts professors didn't go about getting women knocked up. It simply wasn't the done thing.
She set the potion by the sink and fumbled with her robes one-handed before sitting on the toilet. Moving the flask into position, she very carefully peed on her wrist. "Bloody hell." Wrinkling her nose, she adjusted the position and pissed on her fingertips. "Shit! You could have given me a bigger flask you know!" she shouted through the door. Hoping there was enough left for their purposes, she finally managed to get some into the flask. She then had to figure out how to wipe and flush with one hand full and the other fouled. Motherhood was already losing its appeal.
She set the flask down on the counter and then scrubbed her hands in the sink until they were pink. Lifting the sample, she feared the dribble she'd captured wasn't enough. She called out, "How much urine do I need?" There was no answer. "Severus? How much piss do I need?" She tilted her head to the side. "Are you still there?"
When she saw the door vibrate, she remembered her Muffliato. She pulled out her wand and canceled it, just as the lock turned and the door was thrown open. It hit her arm, knocking the flask out of her hand. "Bugger!" she screamed as the urine soaked through her robes and onto her stomach. "Eughch!"
Even as she stared at the mess, it vanished. She looked up and found Snape in the doorway, holding his wand up and looking extremely contrite. "My apologies," he said. "I couldn't hear you clearly, and you couldn't seem to hear me at all. I thought you were in distress. I might have… overreacted."
"You think?" she snapped.
"I do," he replied earnestly. He scrunched up his face and admitted, "I'm not at my best, given the situation." He bent down and picked up the intact flask from the floor, casting Tergeo before holding it out to her. "Perhaps you could try again?"
She sighed. "But I don't have to go now," she said, fearing it was far too close to a whine for comfort.
He closed his eyes and sighed, setting the flask down on the counter. "Fine. We'll wait." He opened his eyes and looked at her. "I took the liberty of ordering a bite to eat. You can start with tea. Lots of it."
He turned in a swirl of robes and headed back into the sitting room. She followed him until he sat stiffly in the armchair facing the sofa and gestured toward the tray of sandwiches and pot of tea. "Help yourself," he said.
She looked at the food and settled for just a cup of tea. "I've lost my appetite," she mumbled.
He nodded. "As have I."
He shook his head when she gestured to the second cup and they ended up sitting in a thick silence, broken only by the sound of her swallowing. A bird landed outside the window just beyond the billiard table, and they both stared at it as if it were the most amazing sight in the world. When it flew away, they were left with nothing.
The minutes crawled by, and she was on her third cup of tea when he asked, "Anything yet?" His voice was so hopeful that she snorted, shaking her head. "I'll order more tea." He tapped the pot with his wand and they both stared at it intently until it disappeared, only to reappear with steam curling from the spout. They looked at each other, and he gave her a tight smile.
"This is ridiculous," she drawled. "We've never had trouble talking before. Why should it be so different now? It's not as if either of us was to blame. Big deal, we slept together. People do that sort of thing."
His face drew back into a pained expression. "I don't recall any sleeping involved," he grumbled.
She snorted and poured herself more tea. "Well, you wore me out, I can tell you that. I barely remember you leaving." She caught his small smirk and added, "I couldn't walk straight the next morning."
He grimaced. "If you're looking for some display of male pride, you'll have to look further. First off, we'd both been drugged, so any vanity in my stamina would be misplaced as would any embarrassment over loss of inhibition. Secondly, I fear I've been well and truly humbled by the fact that I could barely move for two days afterward. My back was quite done in." He shifted in his seat and fussed with the cuff of a sleeve. "Elsewise, I'd have come to you sooner," he added in a quiet voice.
The ensuing silence was total. She set her cup down on the saucer and sighed. Snatching her hair out of the clip, she scrubbed it and said, "What do we do?" She gestured towards the bathroom door. "If it is positive?"
He puffed out his cheeks as he exhaled and shrugged. "I don't know what you'll choose, but I've been trying to come up with options for you if you decide to keep it."
She felt her brows jump in surprise. "Really? What options?"
He looked down at his hands, inspecting his nails. "Well, there's the extreme, yet time-tested, solution. You could marry me. That way our child would have a proper family."
She stopped breathing for several heartbeats, feeling every hair on her body trying to stand on end. His nails must have been truly interesting because he couldn't seem to look away from them. She finally sucked in air and let it out slowly. "And the less extreme options…?"
He nodded sharply several times, as if her reply had been an answer. "We could just move in together. Platonically," he added quickly. "You'll need someone to help with the later stages as well as after the baby arrives. I've looked, and there are flats designed for roommate situations where the living arrangements are virtually separated, only sharing a kitchen and small sitting room. I could sell my house and look for a cottage somewhere to renovate around a similar concept. Or," he swallowed audibly. "I had thought, since you said you were looking for other employment, perhaps you would want to open a shop together. An apothecary somewhere. You could live upstairs, and I could take the back. We'd both be there for the baby…" His voice trailed off, and he darted a look at her face. His shoulders hunched up as he looked back down at his hands. "Or I could just pay support."
She leaned forward and rested her arms on her knees, clasping her hands together. "Severus… was George right?"
His face scrunched up, and she thought he might not answer, but then he shrugged again, that strange, un-Snape-like gesture that seemed to drain him of all authority. "Yes, in fact, he was. I do. Fancy you. I have done for quite some time." He looked out the window, as if hoping another bird would be there. "But that needn't influence anything. I'm aware of your feelings in the matter and don't see the need for you to express them again. What happened between us was… an aberration. Right now, I think it best if we concentrate on the possible ramifications and decide if we are going to press charges."
"On George?" she asked. "I'd thought about it, there's plenty of cause, but it all seemed so sordid. I thought you wouldn't like the publicity."
He turned to her then with an angry, bitter look. "If he hadn't run off like a coward the next morning, there would have been publicity enough when I killed him in front of his mother. He's gone on holiday. I've not been able to track him down, what with the brewing and… well, looking at options."
"You mean looking at real estate for us."
He gave her a belligerent look and crossed his arms over his chest. "That was part of it, yes. I was hoping to be helpful. Now perhaps you might be as well. Drink your bloody tea and go piss in that flask." His sudden anger faltered, and he shook his hair back out of his face. He sighed and waved a hand toward the loo. "I'd like the other shoe to drop. You may not have thought of it until now, but it's been hanging over my head since I woke up the next day."
She didn't know where to begin to sort through her confused jumble of thoughts. Pushing up off the couch, she said, "I'll see what I can do, but you must realize we're overreacting. The chances have to be infinitesimal. You said yourself that you'd already got off several times before you came to me. You couldn't have been squirting more than soap bubbles by the end."
He huffed. "It only takes one, and with the lives the both of us have already led, I think we've used up our quota of luck."
She scrunched up her face. "There is that." She headed off to the loo.
It was only a few minutes later that she opened the door to the bathroom. "Does it matter what proportions I use?" she asked through the doorway. She listened as the chair creaked and his slow, steady tread came across the room.
"No," he said once he'd gained the doorway, "just pour the potion into the flask."
She picked up the bottle and uncorked it. "What will happen?" she asked, as she was overcome by a feeling of being very small and very frightened.
He winced and took the bottle from her shaking fingers, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. As he pulled her against his chest, he murmured, "If you need me to, I'll take care of you. That's what happens."
She was touched, so deeply and incredibly moved by his response that she didn't bother to explain that she's meant what would happen with the potion. She held her silence and laid her head against him as he emptied the bottle into the flask. That done, he wrapped his other arm around her and held her as they watched it bubble and congeal.
She looked at him in the mirror over the sink, watching his face to see what the answer was. He looked so handsome to her in that moment: his concentration, his concern, and, most mesmerizing, the protective way he held her, so gentle and yet strong. She burrowed deeper into his arms and was rewarded by seeing the fleeting smile before his face fell back into intent study. She felt, rather than saw when he knew. He sucked in a breath and then went still. She saw his dark eyes cloud with sadness for the briefest of moments before he closed them. She looked down and saw the contents of the flask had turned white.
His arms relaxed his hold on her and started to pull away, but she tightened her grip on him. "What is it? Does that mean I'm pregnant?"
He blew out a breath. "No." He shook his head and patted her shoulder. "No. You're not. You've nothing to worry about now." He stepped back, not getting far without the fistfuls of his robes she was still clinging to. He pulled at her hands, gently disentangling himself from her grip. "You're free," he said. His face scrunched up, and he looked at her sadly. "I'm so sorry. For everything."
She nodded, clasping his wrists. "So am I," she whispered. "Not because I'm not pregnant. I wasn't ready for that—at all—but I am sorry if this damaged what we have." She took a breath and said. "I don't want things to be awkward between us. I'd like to work this through. Is that alright?"
Her words seemed to hurt him, and he slowly shook his head from side to side. "Hermione… you don't understand."
"What don't I understand?" she asked.
He took her hands and turned them over, staring at her palms. "I'm in love with you" he said quietly. "I've been in love with you. God only knows when it started. It could have been any number of those idiotic functions I'd been dragged to. You became the highlight of each and every one with your wit and intelligent conversation. You were so bright and open, and I just… liked being around you. It all just crept up on me until the idea of seeing you again was all I seemed to think about. I don't know when I fell in love with you. By the time I knew what words to use, I knew I already had been for quite some time."
He shook his head slowly, radiating sadness. "I know hopeless infatuation when it stares me in the face while I shave. I could hide it before—or I thought I could—but it's all different now. I can't pretend I don't remember what it feels like to kiss you. To hold you in my arms. To know what your face looks like on the cusp of an ecstasy I brought you to." He shook his head again. "I can't go back to waiting for you to come sit by me on the odd social occasion anymore, mentally calculating how long I can talk to you before it starts to look suspicious." He looked up, his black eyes full of pain. "I can't go back to being that pathetic anymore. Not after this. Not after having my affections be thrown in my face as something to torment you with." He shrugged one last time. "I know I should have kept my feelings to myself, but I just… thought you should know why I can't just be friends anymore."
She nodded. "I do know. I mean, I didn't before, but I know now." She tilted her head towards the mirror. "I saw it. I saw it in the mirror." She gave him a small smile. "I liked what I saw. I like all the pictures you painted. Sharing a cottage and the apothecary. I like the idea of there possibly being an us. I like your mind, I liked your kisses, and if I'm going to be honest, I really liked the wanking on my tits." She felt herself blush and cringed as his eyes sparked with knowing amusement. She gave him a wry smile. "I definitely don't want to lose your friendship, Severus, and I'm curious and very open to the idea of something more. I just think we need to take things a bit slower. I feel like we missed a few thousand steps in between undefined friendship and potential parenthood."
He gave her a small smile that bloomed larger when she smiled back, setting her belly to fluttering. He pulled her closer. "I'd like that," he said. "I'd like that very much."
She let go of his hands and wrapped her arms around his slim waist, laying her head against his shoulder as he hugged her to him. "Good," she said, feeling a sense of peace and contentment slipping in to settle on her heart. "Good."
AN: I have other stories in varying states of discombobulation, but lord only knows when or if they will ever find an ending, or if real life will ever allow me time to tinker again. This one just happened to be the only one I had mostly finished and forgotten about. I do hope you enjoyed and thank you for letting me entertain you for a little while.